State v. Smith

554 A.2d 713 (Conn. 1989)


The victim, T, and her friend, A, went to a bar.  A friend introduced T to defendant, who bought her a drink.  Defendant invited her and A, together with a male acquaintance A had met at the bar, to dinner at a restaurant across the street, and defendant paid for T.  After dinner, defendant proposed they all go to his apartment, and gave directions to A and her acquaintance, who never showed up.  T and defendant entered the apartment and sat on the couch to watch TV.  Defendant put his arm around T and told her he wanted a kiss and she gave him one.  She testified that he wouldn’t back off and she said she did not want to do anything, but that he was still right in her face wanting to kiss her and saying “you don’t think I paid for dinner for nothing, do you.”  She testified that she was scared and spit in his face, then tried kicking him off to no avail, and that he said he could make it hard on her or make it easy on her, and so she decided to stop resisting, and tried to convince defendant that she was going to go along with it and enjoy it.  After having sex with T, defendant told her he knew she felt she had been raped, but that she could not prove it and had really enjoyed herself.  Defendant offered her some sherbet, which she ate while she waited for a cab.  She told the cab driver to take her to the police station because she had been raped.  The police found a lighter T had placed under the couch to prove she had been at defendant’s apartment.

Procedural History

After a jury trial defendant was convicted of sexual assault in the first degree.


1.  Was there sufficient evidence to convict defendant—i.e., should specific intent to have intercourse without the consent of the victim be a required element of the crime of sexual assault in the first degree?

2.  Is the sexual assault statute unconstitutionally vague?

Holding / Rule

1.  Yes.  Only a general intent to perform the physical acts constituting the crime is necessary for the crime of first degree sexual assault, but a defendant may not be convicted of this crime if the words or conduct of the complainant under all the circumstances would justify a reasonable belief that she had consented.

2.  No.


The state should not have to prove that defendant had actual awareness of, or recklessly disregarded, the complainant’s lack of consent.  Nor, however, should a defendant be “chargeable with the knowledge of the internal workings of the minds of others except to the extent that he should reasonably have gained such knowledge from his observations of their conduct.”  Therefore, the issue of consent turns on whether the complainant’s conduct could reasonably be viewed as indicating consent.  Here, based on the victim’s words and actions, the defendant could not have reasonably concluded that she consented to intercourse.  The statute is not unconstitutionally vague as applied to this cause—the crux of the inquiry on the issue of consent is not the complainant’s subjective state of mind, but “her manifestations of lack of consent by words or conduct as reasonably construed.”  Also, the statute requires the use or threat of use of force.

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